Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fabbri makes strong first impression on Blues

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Tim Taylor has gotten to know St. Louis Blues 2014 first-round pick Robert Fabbri quite extensively this week.

The Blues director of player development worked extensively with some of their top prospects during development camp at the Ice Zone, inside St. Louis Outlet Mall.

After watching Fabbri, Taylor understood why the Blues made the center from the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League the 21st pick last month.

"There's a reason why we picked him first," Taylor said of Fabbri, who had 45 goals and 87 points in 58 regular-season games then was named MVP of the OHL playoffs after he had 13 goals and 28 points in 16 games. He capped his season with two goals and four assists in four games while helping the Storm reach the Memorial Cup championship game.

"He's got that acceleration. He separates himself instantly away from his man," Taylor said. "He's got good instincts to get the puck to the net; not only shooting the puck, but he drives the net hard. Those are all good qualities in an NHL player that we like. He's a difference-maker. He's looking to be the difference in the game."

The Blues have been thirsty for a playmaking center for years. Although Fabbri isn't NHL-ready yet, his St. Louis debut left a positive impression.

"I just try to have as much fun as I can," Fabbri said. "Obviously a lot of fans [came] out ... that's great to see. All the guys you're skating with, you just want to stay relaxed and try and do the best you can.

"Just go hard every drill. You don't want to take a drill off. You're going with different guys. You want to communicate and show them what I can do."

Taylor said the player who comes to mind when he sees Fabbri is one of his former teammates, New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis.

"He shows he has the work ethic like Marty," Taylor said. "I'm very close to Marty, and I'm going to talk to Marty about Robby and the fact that Robby is a smaller guy. He's not small (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), but he's a smaller guy. He goes to hard areas, he's tenacious, he's gritty, and he's just going to have to watch himself a little bit and understand that he can't go in those areas at all times. He's going to have to learn and pick and choose.

"I'll pick Marty's brain at a golf tournament in a couple weeks, so I'll pick his brain about Robby and I'll get them to connect and Robby can pick his brain."

Guelph coach Scott Walker raved about Fabbri before the draft and told the Guelph Mercury, "Twenty years from now [Fabbri] might be the player that sold the most jerseys and the most tickets. I really do believe he has the best skill and heart in the draft."

Fabbri was quick to credit Walker for part of his development and success.

"He's such a great coach," Fabbri said. "And the way our team was [in 2013-14], it's a reflection on the way he coaches. He was a competitive player and he's a competitive coach and he wants that out of all of us. I like having that in my game, so it's always good to have someone like that pushing you.

"It's great to hear that, but to me it's just a number and it's an invitation to camp, and you've got to prove everything right off the start and that's what I'm hoping to do."

Fabbri may be smaller in stature but he's not afraid to play in the tough areas. It's why some compare him to St. Louis, who made a successful career playing the same style and using the same smarts.

"I think I'm very competitive," Fabbri said. "I go to those dirty areas to get the puck so I can utilize my skill that I have, a quick release in the offensive zone, but to play at the next level you've got to play in the defensive zone as well. Even though you don't put up numbers in the defensive zone, it's still a huge part."

Fabbri will return to Guelph with an abundance of knowledge from his week working with Blues staff and coaches.

"He needs to take with him the understanding of nutrition, strength training and a talk with [Blues coach Ken Hitchcock] on what it takes to be an NHL player," Taylor said. "Not just an NHL player for a day but to have a career. There's a difference."

Leaving a strong first impression was something Fabbri didn't lack in his first visit to St. Louis, and if first impressions are lasting Fabbri will be in St. Louis permanently in the near future.

"This is when your career starts and you want to start off on the right foot and you want to work as hard as you can every time you get the opportunity to prove what you can do," Fabbri said. "It was fun finally putting on the [Blues] jersey, [seeing] the fans and everything like that. Such a great organization, and you can tell that by the fans out there that it's a great city to play in.

"Obviously your plans are to make [the NHL], but that's a huge jump. I've set my goals high so I'm going to [try] to reach for them. But I see myself [in] a big leadership role in Guelph [in 2014-15]. Hopefully we can put up another run like we did last year."

Friday, July 11, 2014

Turris ready for role as Senators' top center

Kyle Turris has experience taking over for Jason Spezza as the Ottawa Senators' No. 1 center and he is confident he can do it again.

Kyle Turris

Center - OTT

GOALS: 26 | ASST: 32 | PTS: 58

SOG: 215 | +/-: 22

Turris will ascend the depth chart this season after Spezza was traded to the Dallas Stars on July 1. Two seasons ago, Spezza was sidelined for almost all of the shortened schedule after back surgery.

"I definitely think I've learned a lot over the past two years from those experiences, from being put into that role when [Spezza] was hurt, and seeing how hard the matchup is," Turris told the Ottawa Sun on Friday. "I just tried to take that mentality and put it into the role I had this past year. … This upcoming year, if I'm put into that role again, I think the experience I have now will work in my favor, to know what to expect and how better to prepare for it.

"If I get that opportunity I'll be excited about the challenge, that's for sure."

Turris doubled his career high with 58 points last season. He had 26 goals and 32 assists and was plus-22 playing primarily with Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan on Ottawa's second line.

The third pick in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes, Turris turns 25 on Aug. 14.

"One thing I've learned over my career is nothing really surprises you," Turris told reporter Don Brennan. "It's such a business and so many different things can happen. It's tough. [Spezza] is a great friend, a real good person and obviously somebody that's extremely tough trying to replace."

Turris had 29 points (12 goals) in 48 games during the 2012-13 season, when Spezza missed all but five games. After trading their captain and prospect Ludwig Karlsson for wing Alex Chiasson, two prospects and a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, the Senators signed center David Legwand as a free agent, and have Mika Zibanejad and Zach Smith returning.

"I think we're going to have everybody in our lineup playing the same way, coming hard back and back checking extremely hard, to put pressure on their guys coming down and eliminating the odd-man rushes," Turris said. "And at the same time as coming hard back defensively, we're going to be exploding offensively at the turnovers and getting out of our zone as quick as we can."

Ottawa finished fifth in the Atlantic Division and was five points out of the second Eastern Conference wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think we've got a definite playoff team, and not just a playoff team, I feel we've got a group that can make a run in the playoffs," Turris said. "I definitely feel we have a real good team."

Jets building for future, with or without Kane

WINNIPEG -- The path through the Central Division to the Stanley Cup Playoffs does not figure to get any easier for the Winnipeg Jets when the 2014-15 NHL season begins, with or without Evander Kane.

The Jets have not reached the playoffs since 2007, when the franchise was the Atlanta Thrashers, and were seventh in the division last season, their first after realignment moved them to the Western Conference. This summer, the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators made significant moves in order to keep up with the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

The Jets signed center Mathieu Perreault from the Anaheim Ducks, but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has remained quiet otherwise. He sees the Jets improving through their farm system, but, without mentioning any specific player, has said multiple times he is open to the possibility of shaking up his roster with a significant trade.

That includes a deal possibly involving Kane, a 22-year-old forward with a 30-goal season and a salary-cap-friendly contract for the next four years. For a team open to making over its roster, Kane is a natural target for speculation.

"I can only imagine as a player what goes through your mind when you hear [rumors] that so-and-so is being traded or different things like that," Cheveldayoff said Friday at Jets development camp. "It has got to be difficult. They're all professional hockey players and they're all subject to those kinds of things.

"Like I've been saying, I'm open to look to see [whether] there are ways to make improvements on this team. Without singling out any individual, I think that everybody starts to wonder what is going on."

Cheveldayoff did not confirm if Kane has asked for a trade. Kane refused to give a definitive answer when recently asked on The Team 1040 radio station in Vancouver if he wanted to play for the Jets.

"Again, with specific reference to Evander, I think that he has been asked those kinds of questions year after year after year since he has been here and since he has signed his [six-year] contract [in 2013]," Cheveldayoff said. "Evander Kane is a Winnipeg Jet and that's how we're moving forward."

They also are doing so with goaltender Ondrej Pavelec expected to return as the starter. His .901 save percentage was 46th among 51 qualified goaltenders last season, but Cheveldayoff and coach Paul Maurice have voiced support. Goaltender Michael Hutchinson led the St. John's IceCaps, the Jets' American Hockey League affiliate, to the Calder Cup Final, and he likely will be Pavelec's backup.

The Jets also have needs on the left side of their blue line, and there are open spots throughout the forward lines.

Cheveldayoff has preached a draft-and-develop mantra for the organization since his arrival in 2011, and his philosophy has helped the Jets rebuild their once-barren farm system. This week allowed him an up-close opportunity to witness some of his handiwork.

"I think it's a very exciting time when you get an opportunity to see the young kids come in and play and compete," Cheveldayoff said after a scrimmage ended the final camp session. "Obviously we've made no bones about it; we want to draft and develop players. This is a big, big part of the development process. For some of the players, it's the first step in the development process."

Left wing Nikolaj Ehlers, the ninth pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, arrived in Winnipeg after a 104-point rookie season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He drew the attention of a standing-room crowd for the scrimmage Friday, scoring and creating several plays against older competition.

"When that puck is on his stick you do get that sense that something is going to happen," Cheveldayoff said of Ehlers.

Do players like Ehlers, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, defenseman and 2013 first-round selection Joshua Morrissey, left wing Adam Lowry and right wing Scott Kosmachuk have a legitimate opportunity to push their way into the NHL this season?

"I would never rule out anything," Cheveldayoff said. "These players are going to work hard during the summer. It will be a very competitive training camp with opportunities for all."

The Sharks may be in deep trouble (Trending Topics)

San Jose Sharks right wing Mike Brown, from left, defenseman Brent Burns, and center Joe Thornton sit on the bench during the third period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, April 30, 2014. The Kings won 5-1. (AP Photo)

Stars' Peverley cautiously working toward return

It was March 10 when Dallas Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench during the first period of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at American Airlines Center and was rushed to a local hospital for treatment of what doctors described as a "cardiac event."

On Thursday, four months after the incident, Peverley detailed how he is working toward what he hopes will be a return to the ice.

"Everything's been going really well. I've been taking steps along the way here to see how my heart reacts to ongoing steps that I've been taking," Peverley told The Musers radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas. "Just been ramping it up as time goes on and as I keep achieving new goals."

Peverley had a corrective procedure done on his heart in March and made an appearance June 24 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas. The procedure, a cardiac ablation, fixed structural damage in his heart to correct problems with rhythm (arrhythmia).

"They essentially burn out new electrical pathways for your heart. It was to correct the a-fibrillation and the a-flutter that I had," he said. "It was successful and I'm still doing well. I haven't had any heart arrhythmia since then; so far it's been a success."

Doctors have cleared Peverley to begin exercising again, although he said he has a few more benchmarks to pass before he's deemed ready to handle the rigors of NHL play. He continues to work in Dallas and hopes to reassess his condition in the coming months.

"I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen, but I'm hoping to play and it's got to be under the right circumstances. So we'll wait and see and hopefully I can," Peverley said. "To actually clear me to play is a lot of steps down the road, but they did clear me [to exercise] almost within a couple of weeks of the first surgery that I had. Now it's just slowly taking steps of getting the heart rate higher. My next step will probably be getting off medication that I'm on to control my heartbeat still. Once I'm off of that we'll see what happens in terms of how my heart reacts to no medication and see what happens when it's stressed."

Peverley again lauded the work of the Stars' medical staff as well as the doctors on call at American Airlines Center the night of his cardiac issues, as well as the staff at St. Paul's University Hospital, where he was treated.

"I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world," he said. "I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances. There is a chapter after hockey if that's the road we go down. But we'll wait and see what happens. I'm just excited to see where it's going to take me next."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ducks goalie Gibson using Game 7 loss as motivation

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson has played in seven NHL games, and won five of them.

It's one he lost -- Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round to the Los Angeles Kings -- that is sticking with him, in a good way.

He discussed that and his offseason in a Q&A with the Ducks website published Thursday.

"I think we'll all use it for motivation for next year," Gibson said. "I don't think we have to worry about in a negative way, but I think we'll use it as a positive."

John Gibson

Goalie - ANA

RECORD: 3-0-0

GAA: 1.33 | SVP: .954

Gibson can afford to be optimistic. The 20-year-old is in line to be the Ducks' starter this season after Jonas Hiller signed with the Calgary Flames as a free agent. Gibson will compete with Frederik Andersen for the job.

"We've had some good conversations, but obviously nothing is ever set in stone," Gibson said. "I just want to come into training camp and play my game and hopefully have a good season."

Gibson made his NHL debut on April 7 with an 18-save shutout of the Vancouver Canucks. His Stanley Cup Playoff debut was a 28-save shutout of the Kings.

He followed that with a 39-save win before losing Games 6 and 7, the last allowing four goals on 18 shots.

"When you play in the playoffs, it's the best hockey there is," Gibson said. "If you can get an experience like that under your belt, it gives you some confidence that you can play at this level. Obviously the team we lost to are the Stanley Cup champions, so going against that kind of competition in your first year it helps you out and teaches you a lot. Hopefully you can stay there and have success at that level."

Gibson spoke to the website from his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he is spending his summer working out, fishing and golfing.

"Obviously [the season] ended a little earlier than I would have liked, but I think I learned a lot," he said. "I'll be ready to go next year, take what I learned, be better, and hopefully go further in the playoffs."

Wild forward Parise to play All-Star softball

Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise will participate in the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game at Target Field on Sunday, part of Major League Baseball's All-Star festivities.

Zach Parise

Left Wing - MIN

GOALS: 29 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 56

SOG: 245 | +/-: 10

Parise will be joined by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, former Minnesota Twins pitcher Jack Morris, Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch, and actors Jon Hamm and Rob Riggle.

Wild players Keith Ballard, Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine, along with Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg Jets), Alex Goligoski (Dallas Stars) and Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers) will participate in the Ninth Annual Celebrity Sweat Softball Challenge on Saturday at Midway Stadium.

The Wild said the teams will be coached by former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper and heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

The MLB All-Star Game is Tuesday at Target Field in Minneapolis, home of the Twins.

Maple Leafs re-sign Trevor Smith to one-year contract

The Maple Leafs have brought back Trevor Smith on a one-year contract (financial terms currently unavailable).

This is a no-brainer for the Leafs, as Smith is quality depth and the captain of the Marlies.

With the Leafs, Trevor Smith played at a 32 point pace averaging less than 10 and a half minutes of ice time per game last season, but he collected all of those points playing up the lineup. In the three games when both Nazem Kadri was suspended and Tyler Bozak was hurt in mid November, he collected five of his 9 points in 28 games playing some shifts with Joffrey Lupul and David Clarkson/Mason Raymond. Not surprisingly, he was a nonfactor when he was played in a spare-minutes 4th line role.

Smith isn’t going to give a team the type of impact it wants in an 4th line energy role, but he provides a depth call-up option for the top 9 if the Leafs face another sticky situation with injuries down the middle.

One anticipates Smith will spend more time captaining the Marlies than he was able to during the 2013-14 season. Between an injury and big-club duty, Smith appeared in just 24 regular season games for the Marlies last year, posting 10 goals and 26 points.

Report: David Moss tentatively signs with Swiss club

It looks like David Moss might end up playing in Switzerland next season, but nothing’s set in stone.

Moss inked a two-year contract with a Swiss club, but has a one-week out clause if he can find an NHL team that will see eye-to-eye with him, according to Fox Sports’ Andy Strickland.

The 32-year-old forward had eight goals and 22 points in 79 games with the Arizona (then Phoenix) Coyotes in 2013-14. Moss also had 120 hits and 49 blocked shots. He’s coming off of a two-year, $4.2 million contract.

He wasn’t taken in the 2001 NHL Entry until the seventh round, but he’s gone on to have a solid career. After honing his game at the University of Michigan and getting a bit of additional seasoning in the minors, Moss has record 74 goals and 92 assists in 441 NHL games with the Calgary Flames and Coyotes.

Lightning, ’10 first-rounder Connolly agree to one-year deal

Brett Connolly made the jump straight from the WHL to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but after scoring four goals and 15 points in 68 games in 2011-12, he’s spent most of his time in the minors.

With that in mind, the Lightning and Connolly agreed on a one-year, two-way contract for the 2014-15 campaign. It looks like he will enter training camp with a fair shot of making the team and if all goes well, he could be in line for a more favorable contract next summer.

Although Connolly has only played in 16 games with Tampa Bay over the last two seasons, he has been a prolific scorer in the minors. He had 21 goals and 57 points in 66 AHL games last season after recording 31 goals and 32 assists in 71 contests in 2012-13.

Connolly was taken by the Lightning with the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Cleary agrees to one-year deal with Red Wings

After spending a week and a half on the free agent market, Dan Cleary has agreed to a one-year extension with the Detroit Red Wings.

The team hasn’t disclosed the financial terms, but Cleary will reportedly earn at least $1.5 million and that could balloon to $2.5 million if he activates all his bonuses, per TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Cleary used to be a reliable secondary scorer, but he’s declined in recent years. He had just four goals and eight points in 52 games before his season ended due to a knee injury.

It’s worth noting that the Red Wings supposedly promised to take care of Cleary for the 2014-15 campaign after he passed on a reported three-year, $8.25 million contract with the Flyers in September to sign a one-year deal with Detroit.

Detroit had cap space to spare after it failed to lure big-name free agents this summer.

Roy says Avalanche could be better this season

After watching the offseason moves made by the Colorado Avalanche, coach Patrick Roy believes his team may be better now than the one that finished first in the Central Division last season.

Speaking with media at a golf tournament in Quebec on Thursday, Roy lauded the acquisitions made by Colorado management, most notably the signing of veteran forward Jarome Iginla, and the trades made to acquire defenseman Brad Stuart from the San Jose Sharks and forward Daniel Briere from the Montreal Canadiens.

Jarome Iginla

Right Wing - COL

GOALS: 30 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 61

SOG: 209 | +/-: 34

"The addition of Iginla for us is very important," Roy said. "I think he's going to help our younger players continue to grow. It's extremely positive. Brad Stuart on defense will provide stability. He's going to play some big minutes and can play with Erik Johnson on the top pair. We're very confident with these additions. I think we improved the team in an important way."

Roy also mentioned the signings of defenseman Zach Redmond and forward Jesse Winchester as strong depth moves, but signing Iginla was clearly Colorado's major offseason coup. The 37-year-old Iginla enjoyed a strong season with the Boston Bruins in 2013-14, tying Patrice Bergeron for the team lead with 30 goals. He'll be expected to fill a top-six forward role on a team already featuring some of the best young forwards in hockey, including Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O'Reilly.

Roy also specifically mentioned Briere, who was acquired from the Canadiens on June 30 for forward PA Parenteau. Roy said he doesn't yet know what role the 36-year-old Briere will have with the team, but expected he would skate on the wing on a line with center John Mitchell and forward Jamie McGinn.

"We like the team we currently have. We have an excellent core with Duchene, O'Reilly, Landeskog, MacKinnon. Johnson, [Tyson] Barrie and [Nick] Holden on the back end and [Semyon] Varlamov in net," Roy said. "What we're trying to do is bring experience to this group. Guys like [Alex] Tanguay, Iginla, Briere. We're going to continue to add to our group, Stuart on defense. We're very pleased with how we worked."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ho-Sang not surprised Islanders picked him at draft

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Joshua Ho-Sang met with several teams prior to the 2014 NHL Draft, but he was taken aback following his sit-down with the New York Islanders. That's why he wasn't too surprised when they traded up with the Tampa Bay Lightning to grab the talented (and sometimes outspoken) center at No. 28.

"They were definitely the nicest," Ho-Sang said Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum after the first on-ice session at the team's annual prospect camp. "They just talked to me, they asked me some questions. I mean, the Islanders were one of the few teams, and I heard it with a lot of guys, they were asking me questions outside of hockey, just kind of getting to know them. I think that's unbelievable that they did that, and obviously I ended up here because of that. They took the time to kind of talk to me and I appreciate that very much. And the fact that they traded up for me is unbelievable."

Ho-Sang, 18, is coming off his second season with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. He led the team last season with 53 assists and 85 points in 67 games, and tied for the team lead with 32 goals. That's why he chuckled when someone asked if certain teams didn't draft him because of the perception that he's a selfish player, a trait he admitted he battled with a few years ago but has worked hard to change.

"I was top-10 in the CHL in assists (actually tied for 13th), so I don't know," Ho-Sang said. "You can say I'm an individual, but I pass the puck a lot and the guys that I played with on my team, they can vouch for that. I think a lot of that stuff was my minor-hockey days for sure. I was pretty selfish when I was 15, but I've really worked on that. It's something that I've had to work on. From the talks with the Islanders, that's not something that they've said to me. They just said to work on defense and to get stronger."

That's likely been the message to most players during the prospect camp this week. Islanders coach Jack Capuano told reporters he's not so much interested in evaluating players as he is simply getting to know them better on a personal level, including Ho-Sang and left wing Michael Dal Colle, the fifth pick of this year's draft. Dal Colle had 39 goals and 95 points in 67 games for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL last season.

"I've been through these camps quite a bit, and as I told the guys, we're not here to judge and evaluate players," Capuano said. "We know they're good players. We're here this week to get to know them and that's more or less what I want to accomplish this week."

This week Ho-Sang is rooming with defenseman Griffin Reinhart, who will receive every opportunity to make the Islanders out of training camp this fall. Reinhart, who was New York's first-round draft choice (No. 4) in 2012, won a Memorial Cup with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League last season.

"I haven't really talked to him about on-ice stuff … we've just kind of talked about life and stuff," Ho-Sang said of Reinhart. "He's an amazing guy. He's nice to me. He's a very high pick; he's played his years [in junior] and he didn't big-league me at all. He took the time to talk to me and that means a lot."

Fans will be provided their first opportunity to see Ho-Sang skate in an Islanders uniform Thursday when the team hosts its annual Blue-White scrimmage at the Coliseum. The Islanders probably will be playing their home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn by the time Ho-Sang arrives full-time on the NHL scene (this season will be their last in Uniondale), but he's excited for the chance to help bring the franchise back to prominence. He said just putting on the gear Tuesday gave him Goosebumps.

"It feels unbelievable," Ho-Sang said. "I mean, this is the first day I really got to wear the equipment and stuff, so that was really cool and really exciting. Just to see it in the stall, and I'm sure a lot of the guys share the same feeling. It's an amazing organization to be a part of, especially because they're building and they really want to jump up and be an impact team in the East and I'm hoping to help [them] do that. For a lot of the moves they make, you can clearly see it."


Younger Kings give Zykov, Kempe confidence

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Two years ago the Los Angeles Kings promoted forwards Dwight King and Jordan Nolan from the American Hockey League in the middle of the season and they helped them win the Stanley Cup. This spring that storyline played out again when Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson played prominent roles in the Kings' second championship.

It didn't escape Valentin Zykov and Adrian Kempe, who are years away from the NHL but know how to get there.

"When you see young guys get on the team and help them to win, of course it gives you confidence," Zykov said during Kings development camp. "You just try to follow what they've done … get better every year and try to do the same thing. Everybody wants to make the NHL as fast as they can."

Zykov, 19, and Kempe, 17, are the two biggest names at camp this week, fresh-faced players who might be lining up with Toffoli and Pearson in the coming years. They are big, sturdy power-forward types who fit right in with the Kings' identity.

Asked if it bodes well that they are in an organization that isn't afraid to give young forwards a chance, Mike Donnelly, a Kings collegiate scout who also helps with the team's player development, said, "I think you answered your own question. Our job is to get these kids as NHL-ready as we can. We know what our job is … we have to do whatever we can to try to help these kids in case they're needed on the big club, or when they're ready to step in and play."

Kempe, the 29th pick the 2014 NHL Draft, took notice of Pearson and Toffoli.

"They play real fast hockey, a real physical game," Kempe said. "That's what I'm going to do too. That play fits me pretty good."

Kempe was the second-youngest player in the draft (he turns 18 in September), but he's used to having to be precocious. The 6-foot-1, 187 pound forward played on a depth line against older men in Sweden's top league and acquitted himself well with 11 points in 45 games. He's projected as a stubborn two-way wing or center, and Kings director of amateur scouting Michael Futa compared him to Pearson with "a little more bite."

Kempe looks slender but it's easy to envision him filling out his lengthy frame. He said he can adapt to the pro game here and admitted he needs to work on his puck possession. Kempe is the third Swedish player drafted by the Kings under general manager Dean Lombardi.

"I think the small rink and the North American play teaches me pretty good," Kempe said. "I'm a big, strong player."

Zykov (5-11, 209) signed a three-year entry level contract May 27, but because he is 19 will go back to his junior team, Baie-Comeau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, unless he makes the Kings out of training camp, an unlikely scenario given their forward unit.

There is some question whether Zykov will get challenged enough in another season of junior hockey. He had 22 points in 22 playoff games to help Baie-Comeau reach the QMJHL Final last season, and has 138 points in 120 QMJHL games.

Zykov is proficient in close, and his quick release was evident. He said he improved defensively from last year's camp. Off the ice he has a playful personality that contrasts with the seriousness of his Russian accent. Asked if he bulked up from last year, Zykov smiled coyly and said, "Maybe. I don't know."

Zykov and Kempe each referenced the NHL as his ultimate dream. Although they have a ways to go, the path has been laid by a Kings organization that has expanded its scouting staff and gotten results. The development camp is when they can work closely with their prospects for a significant time.

"The reason why we do it is Pearson, Toffoli, [Alec] Martinez, [Slava] Voynov, King," Donnelly said. "That's why we're doing it. We're very fortunate that, from the top down, we're able to provide a service to these kids. We take all the experiences that we've had through our careers and help them avoid some of the pitfalls, bumps and peaks and valleys that we had to go through as players. We're very fortunate that everybody in the organization believes in development and how important it is.

"When we see our kids make it, and when we see them play at high levels, like we saw in the playoffs, it's an unbelievable feeling. I can't describe it. We put a lot of work into this over the last eight years and it's awesome to see the results we've had, two Stanley Cups and one final-four appearance. It's awesome as a group."

Over the Boards: Expectations on the rise in Tampa

Jon Cooper walked right into the question. And he knew it too.

Cooper, the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was talking about going through the stages in his career that led him to the 2014 NHL Awards as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. He was talking about doubting himself at each stage, overcoming the insecurity and realizing he can deliver the goods and hang with the best coaches in the business, because right now he is one of them.


What are the implications when a team files for arbitration compared to when a player does? -- @31Mires

There is a lot to this, but I hope this covers the basic information you're looking for below:

* If a club takes a player to arbitration (club-elected), the player can decide if he wants a one-year contract or a two-year contract. If a player takes the club to arbitration (player-elected), the club decides on the term of the contract. However, if the player is one year away from unrestricted free agency the term has to be one year. The arbitrator sets the value of the contract.

* In club-elected arbitration, the team has "walk-away rights," meaning it can choose not to sign the player to the contract awarded by the arbitrator if the average annual value of the contract is at least $3.5 million, and the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. In player-elected arbitration, the player does not have "walk-away rights," meaning he has to sign the contract that is awarded.

* In club-elected arbitration, players who made at least $1.75 million last season receive at least 85 percent of their previous season's salary. Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly and Winnipeg Jets forward Michael Frolik fall under this category this year.

O'Reilly earned $6.5 million last season and the Avalanche took him to salary arbitration, so an arbitrator has to award him a contract worth at least $5.525 million. Frolik earned $1.9 million last season, so he's eligible for a contract worth at least $1.615 million.

All other restricted free agents in club-elected arbitration are awarded a contract with a monetary figure equal to or higher than what they earned in the previous season. St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka ($1.4 million salary last season) is the only player who falls under this category this year.

* Players who file for player-elected arbitration are not eligible to receive an offer sheet.

* A player can take a team to arbitration an unlimited amount of times provided he meets the parameters for being eligible for salary arbitration set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. A team can take a player to salary arbitration only once.

Will the Avalanche sign Ryan O'Reilly? Or trade him and put me out of my misery? -- @VDefran

I highly doubt the Avalanche are going to trade O'Reilly even after his contract is settled through arbitration -- and I do think this one is going to arbitration. O'Reilly, no matter the price, is an important player for the Avalanche. He plays big minutes in all situations. If he gets a two-year contract, which makes sense because that bridges him to unrestricted free agency, I can't see the Avalanche trading him in the first year unless they fall apart. It's possible Colorado might try to get something for him in the second year of the contract if they think it will be impossible to re-sign him, but that's too far down the road right now.

Do you think it will be easier for the Philadelphia Flyers to trade Vinny Lecavalier to the Nashville Predators than it was before now that Mike Fisher is out 4-6 months? -- @samfink12

I've heard a lot of Lecavalier to Nashville talk, mostly from Flyers fans, since the news broke Monday that Fisher ruptured his Achilles tendon while training. I understand why it would be a conclusion most would jump to. The Predators need a center, Lecavalier is a center and the Flyers want to trade Lecavalier. It makes sense, but here's the thing: Lecavalier has four years and $18 million left on his contract and he's regressed for four straight seasons. It's no easier now than it was before to trade him even with the Predators' obvious need for center help. Unless the Flyers agree to retain a significant portion of Lecavalier's salary, why would Nashville take him on when he's 34 years old and his best days clearly are behind him?

Biggest surprise free-agent signing this offseason? -- @Cvancheri

It has to be either Christian Ehrhoff going to the Pittsburgh Penguins on a one-year, $4 million contract, or Benoit Pouliot getting five years from the Edmonton Oilers.

I was convinced Ehrhoff would sign a multiyear contract with the Red Wings, but his one-year contract makes some sense. He is getting paid by the Buffalo Sabres and now he can re-boot himself in Pittsburgh and look for a multiyear contract next summer.

I never imagined Pouliot would get more than a three-year contract after playing with five teams in the past five seasons, all on one-year contracts. It's a risk for the Oilers, but Pouliot meets the metrics they're looking for as a big, experienced who drives possession.

If you have a question you want answered in Over the Boards, send it in a tweet to @drosennhl . The Mailbag will be a weekly feature here.

"In the big picture this year I feel confident that I belong," Cooper said.

As soon as he stopped talking, the following question came at him fast. It was about the next stage, which has to be winning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Cooper smiled and laughed, and then he agreed.

He has a .593 winning percentage in the regular season (51-35-12), but he's 0-4 in the playoffs after the Lightning were swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference First Round. He thinks he knows why the Lightning were knocked out in four games -- and it had nothing to do with the fact Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop was unavailable due to an elbow injury, or because star center Steven Stamkos' right leg was still not 100 percent.

"I think we put a lot of emphasis on finishing as strong as we could to get home-ice advantage, and I think at the end we might have squeezed a little too much out," Cooper said. "We laid everything out on the line in the regular season and I don't know how much we had left in the playoffs. That's a learning experience. I thought [Montreal] did a heck of a job of being ready when it came to be showtime. That's a learning experience for us."

Cooper also thinks the Lightning showed their age against Montreal.

They used 25 players in the series, including 12 who never had played in the playoffs before, chief among them Calder Trophy finalists Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Goalie Anders Lindback only had one playoff appearance before last season.

"We got swept, and we got swept for a reason," Cooper said. "I can't sit here and say we really should have won any of the games. … If anything I'm a little mad at myself with the way we performed. I've got to make sure we're better prepared to go into the playoffs next year."

The last part of the quote is the most important and the most telling. Cooper's expectations for himself and the Lightning have changed drastically in one season. Not only does he now know he belongs, but he knows his team does too.

"You can't be a one-trick pony," Cooper said. "The playoffs should be the norm now."

For as much as he's kicking himself for Tampa Bay's easy and quick departure from the playoffs, Cooper said the fact the Lightning made the playoffs last season was "a massive step" for a team that finished 28th in the League standings in the 2012-13 season.

Anything short of another trip to the playoffs would be a disaster, especially with the additions general manager Steve Yzerman has made during the offseason.

Yzerman bolstered Tampa Bay's young defense corps by trading for Jason Garrison and signing Anton Stralman to a five-year contract. He added size and a penalty-killing presence in forward Brian Boyle on a three-year contract. He signed veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov to be Bishop's backup.

In addition, Jonathan Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, is expected to make the team out of training camp and should be a preseason favorite to win the Calder Trophy.

"So many people say it's easy to coach a team with a lot of really good players. I say no it's not actually," Cooper said. "I think it's easier to take a team that's not expected to do anything and bring them up than it is to take a lot of good players and have them win a championship. We're at the point now where we have to keep this team where we're at and go above, and that's a challenge.

"I'd be really mad if we're not a better team. I think 101 points, that shouldn't be a barometer for us. … It's about getting to the dance. That's what we have to do, and when we do we've got to win some games."

Burns going back to the blue line

We can't call him San Jose Sharks forward Brent Burns anymore.

Burns is a defenseman again, just as he was for the first eight-and-a-half seasons of his career. He's moving back to the blue line to bolster a defense corps that will be younger than it was last season following the departures of Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart.

"As a player I have always just said I want to play, and I feel I can do both really well," Burns said of playing forward and defense. "Guys are always [complaining] about more ice time. Well, on 'D' you get it. I like it. I like playing 'D.'"

Burns moved to forward midway through the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season because the Sharks had a surplus of defensemen and were looking to get more punch, not to mention goals, from their forwards. He had 20 points in 23 games, and last season set career-highs with 22 goals, 48 points and 245 shots on goal as a forward, playing primarily on Joe Thornton's line.

Now he's going back to defense as part of the Sharks' attempt at a metamorphosis, which looks like it could remain a work-in-progress unless or until Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau agree to waive their no-trade clauses.

Regardless of what happens with Thornton and Marleau, San Jose's defense corps now features righties in Burns, Jason Demers and Justin Braun, and lefties Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Matt Irwin and perhaps 19-year-old Mirco Mueller, the No. 18 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.


Lightning coach Jon Cooper discussing forward Jonathan Drouin, who is expected to make the NHL roster this season, one year after being sent back to play another season of junior hockey:

"We've probably been questioned a million times why he didn't make our team last year, but it was a win-win for everybody. Drouin got to play and he was dominant. We had a great season. And now I think he's that much better off and more prepared to come in. There's no question of his talent level and we're really excited to have him."

Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy discussing the competition in the Central Division, which featured five playoff teams last season:

"I don't think there is going to be that much change. … We're going to play five games against every team in our division and there's a lot of good teams. Even Winnipeg is a team that I think they're going to have a good year."

Predators looking past Neal's discipline history

Nashville Predators forward James Neal plays with an edge that occasionally has led him across the line between what is allowed and what is suspension-worthy. However, that didn't stop Nashville from acquiring him in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins last month.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette said he isn't turned off by Neal's history, which includes two fines for $7,500 and three suspensions totaling eight games. The latest suspension came last season when Neal had to sit out five games in December for kneeing Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head.

"I like the way he plays the game," Laviolette said. "He plays the game hard. He's aggressive. He's competitive. Certainly we don't want him to cross that line, but you'd rather try and take that out a little bit than have to try to find it somewhere. I think we all like the way he plays."

In addition to the incident involving Marchand, Neal was suspended one game for charging Claude Giroux in April 2012 and two games for a hit from behind on Derek Dorsett in November 2009. He was fined $5,000 in March for cross checking Luke Glendening, and $2,500 in November 2011 for high sticking P.K. Subban.

Neal also has scored at least 21 goals in each of his six seasons, including in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when he had 21 in 40 games. He scored 40 in 2011-12; Nashville never has had a 40-goal scorer. It hasn't had a 30-goal scorer in the past four seasons.

"I like taking players for what they are and what they do. I'm not big on trying to change players," Predators GM David Poile said. "If I wanted to change a guy I probably wouldn't trade for him. There are strengths and weaknesses, a little bit of bad habits or what have you, but I think that's one of the things that make James Neal pretty good, is that he plays hard all the time."


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Devils coach expects Schneider to thrive as No. 1

New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer says nobody in the NHL is more deserving of the chance he's about to get than Cory Schneider.

Cory Schneider

Goalie - NJD

RECORD: 16-15-12

GAA: 1.970000 | SVP: 0.921000

Schneider will enter 2014-15 as the Devils' undisputed No. 1 goalie, with Martin Brodeur looking to sign elsewhere as a free agent.

"This guy more than anybody in the organization and maybe in the League deserves that opportunity," DeBoer told on Tuesday. "He's waited for the opportunity. He's done all the right things. I'm really looking forward [to] the level he can get to playing 60, 65 games."

Schneider played 45 last season, his first with the Devils after splitting time on the Vancouver Canucks with Roberto Luongo.

With veteran Scott Clemmensen and prospect Keith Kinkaid as New Jersey's backups, Schneider is almost certain to play most of its games.

"I don't have any doubt he's going to thrive with that type of workload," DeBoer said.

Schneider, 28, was third in the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average last season, and 13th with a .921 save percentage. The Devils are looking to sign him to a new contract before his expires after this season. General manager Lou Lamoriello last week told he was "very comfortable saying we'll get it done very soon."

Brodeur played 39 games last season and has not signed elsewhere.

"It's tough to close that chapter (with Brodeur)," DeBoer told the website. "I was only fortunate enough to catch the last three years of it, but feel privileged and honored to have been able to work with him for three years. I'll never forget the run he took us on two years ago (to the Stanley Cup Final) and the level he played at. Obviously, I wish him all the best."

Ducks coach pleased with 'great deal' for Kesler

Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on Tuesday raved about the trade that landed Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks last month.

"Obviously, as a coach, you're sitting there saying, 'That's a great deal,'" Boudreau told the Ducks website at development camp.

The Ducks acquired Kesler and a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft on June 27, sending center Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and a first-round and third-round pick in the 2014 draft to the Canucks.

"I loved Nick Bonino and [Sbisa], but you're getting a top-flight guy that can give [Ryan Getzlaf] a rest every now and then," Boudreau said. "It gives you strength down the middle. I've never coached a team in the NHL that's had a second-line center that you're going to have with Ryan Kesler. It's a great [acquisition], and it gets you excited."

Kesler had 25 goals and 43 points in 77 games for Vancouver last season. He missed 31 games in 2012-13 because of injuries to his shoulder, wrist and ankle. He won the Selke Trophy in 2010-11, when he scored a career-best 41 goals and 73 points, and had a plus-24 rating.

Kesler was acquired, in part, to help Anaheim match up against Western Conference contenders, which are strong at center. The Los Angeles Kings, with Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, eliminated the Ducks in seven games in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, after Anaheim won the Pacific Division.

"In the last couple of years, we thought we were a threat," Boudreau said. "This makes us a bona fide threat to become an elite team."

Stars intrigued by Honka's offensive potential

FRISCO, Texas -- When the Dallas Stars chose defenseman Julius Honka with the 14th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, they did so knowing the 18-year-old's strengths are on offense.

That makes sense considering Honka had some impressive numbers in 62 games with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League last season: 56 points (16 goals, 40 assists) in his first year playing in North America.

It's not surprising to hear him say he models himself after NHL defensemen known for playing a similar game: Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.

"Offensive game [is what I bring], absolutely," Honka said at Stars development camp. "I want to be a big part of that game. I like to play on the power play and a lot of offensive game. That's my style of hockey."

Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell agreed.

"He's just a very heady hockey player. He sees the ice very well. He's a good skater," McDonnell said. "Down the road he is someone I believe is going to be able to run the power play for you."

Honka being an offensive-minded defenseman means certain aspects of the defensive side of his game need some work. He admitted that one area in particular he needs to continue improving is being stronger in 1-on-1 battles.

McDonnell and the rest of the Stars brass aren't worried because they realize Honka and the rest of their draft class are, more than anything, works in progress.

"I think any defenseman at that age needs work in their own end, especially at the pro level," McDonnell said. "But he plays it fine. He competes. Obviously he is not a [6-foot-3] defenseman, but he plays bigger than he is. He goes into the corner to make plays to get the puck out of his zone. He makes a great first pass out, but all defenseman at that age need to learn how to play defense at the pro level."

The other drawback with Honka was his stature (5-foot-11). He said he doesn't see that as something that will keep him from delivering on his upside.

"I don't think about those things. I just keep focusing on my game and just do my thing," Honka said. "I know it's not a big issue if you're undersized. If you're a little bit smaller player, you have to keep focused on those little things like being smarter against the big guys. But that's hockey nowadays."

McDonnell said Honka's size won't keep him from developing.

"He's going to end up playing at 6-0; he's around 5-11," McDonnell said. "Our biggest concern was his height, but when he came to the door and we shook his hand, [we realized] he's not that small."

Something else to like about the Finnish-born defenseman is that over the course of the past year, he has gone from someone who did not know English to someone quite familiar with what has become his second language. Honka now does interviews in English with little effort.

Earlier this year, he was a member of the Finland team that won the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"Well, that was a great experience. We had a great team," Honka said. "The gold medal was like a cherry on top. That was huge in Finland. Every young player wants to be on that team one day."

Honka has been in Dallas for about two weeks, and Stars general manager Jim Nill is pleased with the pick made at the draft last month in Philadelphia.

"He's highly skilled, he moves the puck well, he moves it out of his end well, he is a right shot, and he can run a power play," Nill said. "We are excited about his potential."

Montreal's Beaulieu aims to build on playoff success

Nathan Beaulieu gave the Montreal Canadiens great bang for their buck during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It might have been a glimpse of what kind of value he can provide in 2014-15.

Beaulieu played a shade over 75 minutes in the playoffs, but it could be argued those minutes were a big reason why the Canadiens surprised the hockey world by reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.

The morning of May 12, the Canadiens were facing a 3-2 second-round series deficit against the Boston Bruins when rumors began circulating that Montreal coach Michel Therrien would replace Douglas Murray with Beaulieu for Game 6 at Bell Centre.

With his season on the line, Therrien turned to a defenseman who to that point had 23 games of NHL experience. Beaulieu played 17 games with the Canadiens during the 2013-14 regular season and lived a largely sheltered existence, facing weak competition in limited minutes and being deployed in offensive- and neutral-zone situations whenever possible.

To say Therrien was rolling the dice by inserting Beaulieu into the lineup against the rival Bruins would be putting things mildly.

For Therrien, this was a leap of faith.

And it worked.

The Canadiens scored 25 seconds into Beaulieu's first career NHL playoff shift, though he had nothing to do with Lars Eller's goal that gave Montreal a 1-0 lead at 2:11 of the first period in Game 6 against Boston. But Beaulieu had a lot to do with the goal that gave Montreal a 2-0 lead at 15:24 of the second, blocking a Dougie Hamilton point shot and flipping a prayer up the ice that bounced off Loui Eriksson and right to Max Pacioretty to send him on a breakaway.

The play was made possible by Beaulieu's offensive instincts, a trait the Canadiens might count on more this season.

"It was a learning curve. I had a lot of fun with it," Beaulieu said at the Canadiens development camp. "I didn't expect it to go in, so I tried to stay ready as much as I could. When I got the opportunity I tried to run with it. I had a lot of fun. The team, I jelled with them real well. Just to go through that experience at a young age is only going to help me in my career."

Beaulieu, 21, has every reason to believe he will benefit from that experience as early as October.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin jolted his dressing room just prior to the opening of free agency by trading defenseman Josh Gorges to the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round pick at the 2016 NHL Draft. Though much of the motivation behind the move was shedding Gorges' $3.9 million salary for the next four seasons, a secondary reason was to open a spot on Montreal's blue line for either Beaulieu or fellow first-round pick Jarred Tinordi, 22.

"We have two young defensemen who are a left shot," Bergevin said July 1 to help explain the Gorges trade, "and at some time they need a place to play."

Most everyone assumed Bergevin was referring to Beaulieu and Tinordi. Everyone, apparently, except Beaulieu.

"Well, maybe I'm not one of them," Beaulieu said. "That's the way I've got to look at it. Who knows who he's talking about? I've just got to come into camp playing my game. Nothing's set in stone, there's a lot of things that can happen and I've got to control it and make the best of it."

Beaulieu's inclusion on the roster at the Canadiens development camp this week raised a few eyebrows, largely because Tinordi is not there. Some saw his presence at the Canadiens training facility as an indication that the organization wants him to remain humble as he works to become a full-time NHL player.

Through a spokesman, the Canadiens pointed out that Tinordi was a year older than Beaulieu and had spent more time on Montreal's roster. The organization therefore felt the development camp would not benefit Tinordi, but Beaulieu still had something to draw from it.

Beaulieu was not the least bit bothered to be in the Montreal suburbs as one of eight full-time professionals doing drills alongside 43 Canadiens draft picks and camp invitees.

"My training's gone so well so far this year, I was happy to come here and show what I've done so far, and show there's lots of improvements to be made and I'm making a lot of steps forward," Beaulieu said. "Just to put it in [the Canadiens'] heads that I'm ready and I've got to make a big step."

The Canadiens are likely counting on either him or Tinordi to fill a spot on the left side of the third pair, probably alongside Mike Weaver, who was re-signed for one year and $1.75 million on July 1 after he was acquired from the Florida Panthers just before the NHL Trade Deadline.

The top two defense pairs for the Canadiens will likely have Andrei Markov playing with restricted free agent P.K. Subban on the top unit and Alexei Emelin moving to his natural left side to play next to free-agent signing Tom Gilbert on the second pairing. Each of those units has a puck-mover with a more responsible, defensive type, which is what Markov is at this stage of his career.

If the Canadiens want to continue that trend, putting Beaulieu with Weaver makes more sense than using Tinordi on the third pair, making his fourth career Montreal training camp this fall easily the most important of Beaulieu's career.

"There's always opportunities, there's always surprises at camp," Beaulieu said. "I'm just trying to be the guy that makes a difference out there, so if there is an opportunity I'm not going to let it slip past me."

Ehlers aims to be Jets' next first-round success story

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his scouting staff have excelled in the first round of the NHL draft even as on-ice success has eluded the team since its arrival from Atlanta in 2011.

Two weeks after being hired by the Jets, Cheveldayoff selected center Mark Scheifele with the seventh pick in the first round the 2011 draft. The following year Cheveldayoff picked defenseman Jacob Trouba with the ninth pick, and the team continued to rebuild its blue line with Joshua Morrissey as the 13th pick in 2013.

Scheifele and Trouba emerged as key players in the Jets’ 2013-14 lineup, and Morrissey contributed with the Jets' American Hockey League affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps, in a run to the Calder Cup Final.

With Morrissey, Scheifele and Trouba on track, Cheveldayoff and his staff went to Philadelphia in June for their fourth crack at the draft and added left wing Nikolaj Ehlers with the ninth pick of the 2014 draft to the organization's growing collection of young talent.

The speedy, playmaking 18-year-old from Aalborg, Denmark spent his first season in North America with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League where he teamed with Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin, the third pick in 2013, to torment opposing defenses. Ehlers finished fourth in the QMJHL with 49 goals and 104 points, earning him the league's rookie of the year award, offensive rookie of the year award, best professional prospect honor, a spot on the league's All-Rookie Team and Second Team All-Star honors.

After returning to Denmark for four days following the draft, Ehlers traveled to Winnipeg to join his fellow Jets prospects at the team's development camp at MTS Iceplex on the outskirts of Winnipeg. While the Jets opted to allow Morrissey to miss camp after a long season, Ehlers is skating alongside a glut of prospects that include goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie and center Nicolas Petan.

"It was nice to get on the ice here, to finally get over here," Ehlers said. "I felt really good on the ice. I feel good and I'm happy to be here. I'm going to enjoy this week and see what happens here."

The Jets' growing pool of prospects means they won't need to rush Ehlers to the NHL, a problem that plagued the franchise when it was based in Atlanta. Cheveldayoff has emphasized a draft-and-develop philosophy during his tenure. The Jets twice returned Scheifele to the Ontario Hockey League, afforded Trouba a year at the University of Michigan and have no plans to rush Morrissey into their lineup.

At 5-foot-11 and 163 pounds, Ehlers and his 104 points dismissed any concerns about his size in the QMJHL; however, he's aware he'll need to bulk up to succeed in Winnipeg.

"I want to put on some pounds," Ehlers said. "I guess that's probably the biggest thing that I have to get better at. It's hard to eat so much that you want to throw up afterward. I'm trying. I'm going to try until I [add weight]."

Before his move to Halifax, Ehlers played 11 games in Switzerland's top league with Biel in the 2012-13 season. Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane spent time with Biel that season during the NHL work stoppage and encouraged Ehlers to ignore any skepticism about his size.

"It doesn't depend on your size that much," Ehlers recalled Kane, who is 5-11 and 181 pounds, telling him. "It depends on [whether] you really want to play. I want to play. I love playing hockey every single day."

If size was a concern to the Jets, they did not show it at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto in May.

"I think they showed a lot of interest," Ehlers said. "It made me feel really comfortable. I just remember that they showed a lot of interest. I felt great going out of that meeting with the Jets."

Along with Kane, Ehlers had plenty of hockey savvy to rely on leading up to his selection by the Jets. The New York Rangers picked his father, Heinz Ehlers, in the ninth round of the 1984 draft (No. 188) before he went on to a long career as a player and coach in Europe.

Drouin is a likely bet to graduate to the NHL this fall with Tampa Bay, leaving Ehlers as the key lead in Halifax's offensive attack. But before Drouin and Ehlers parted ways, the Lightning prospect instructed Ehlers about what to expect at his first development camp.

"I was prepared for all of this," Ehlers said. "I don't think that I have to impress anyone. I'm going to go out and play my game. That's what I did all [season]. That's why I’m here now. I'm going to keep on doing that."